Administrators gear up for new literacy law

The legislator who sponsored this year’s signature literacy laws told a packed group of school administrators Thursday that lawmakers will be watching — and expecting a return on their investment.

Julie VanOrden
Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree

“I just wanted you to know they are watching and they are going watch those literacy scores, and they are going to see if we move up or down,” said Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree. “We put $9.1 million (into improving literacy rates). They want to see something, and they want to see it moving in a positive direction.”

With the new school year just weeks away, literacy remediation and intervention was the talk of the three-day Idaho Association of School Administrators leadership conference in Boise.

On Wednesday and Thursday, overflowed crowds of superintendents, principals and special education directors crammed into workshops focused on the new literacy initiative. The conference rooms had seats for about 70 attendees; each day, more than 40 administrators staked out places to stand.

Both workshops were designed to help administrators learn about their legal requirements, and strategies for developing their own literacy intervention programs.

House Bill 526 calls on educators to provide an additional 60 hours of supplemental reading instruction to kindergarten through third-grade students who score at the lowest level on the Idaho Reading Indicator. An additional 30 hours of help will be available to students who score at the middle level on the IRI, a mark that still falls below grade level.

Supplemental instruction may come in the form of before-school, after-school or summer school programs, or it may be delivered during the traditional school day.

For students scoring at the lowest level on the IRI, administrators may use their share of $9.1 million to provide optional, all-day kindergarten.

Whatever strategies are employed, they must be evidence-based and include parental consultation — although it is up to district leaders to create the plan that works best for their local students.

On Wednesday, literacy experts urged administrators to get their teachers involved with the literacy intervention efforts.

“No time is as precious or as fleeting as those first years in school,” Marybeth Flacbart of Education Northwest said.

Literacy1
Tracie Bent

VanOrden, a potential frontrunner to head the House Education Committee in 2017, described the process of steering the the literacy bills through the Legislature. Afterwards, administrators broke out in applause.

One administrator even exclaimed “wow!” as VanOrden and Tracie Bent of the State Board of Education explained the $9.1 million will supplement about $2 million in existing literacy funding.

“It’s going in the budget every year from here on out,” VanOrden said. “As far as I’m concerned it is anyway.”